Panel: Open Source Projects in the US Government


Lisa Wolfisch is conducting a panel on Open Source Projects in the US Government. Well, its actually just her and Pat Moran from NASA Ames. The third panelist was supposed to be Terry Bollinger, but he couldn't make it at the last minute. That's too bad, Terry is a MITRE employee who did a study on FOSS (free and open source software) usage in the US government. I heard his speach last January and it was full of interesting things. Lisa said she has his slides, so maybe she'll give us a rundown.

She is going over a summary of Terry's information which showed 110 projects using FOSS in the DoD, with infrastructure and research projects being the most strongly represented. The DoD CIO placed FOSS under the same requirements us commercial software. There are, obviously, requirements for security certifications (like NIAP and Common Criteria). Oracle and IBM are sponsoring versions of Linux for Common Criteria evaluation.

EAMS, the Enterprise Architecture Management Software group, in the federal government is using an OSS model to support shared EA software.

Lisa is now discussing her project which is the State and County Quickfacts at the Census Bureau. The site features thematic maps designed for online viewing. The project was unfunded and took six months from planning to release. The site is built on a LAMP platform for $0 in start-up procurement. The same code drive MapStats which shows state and county profiles on FedStats.gov.

Lisa cites the fact that OSS has no procurement delays as a big factor in choosing it for government projects. Projects often die when there's a funding delay, even if the money shows up eventually. OSS0-based projects have an advantage in that area.

Looking around, the room is full with people sitting on the floor and standing at the back. Its a fairly large room too.

Pat wrote a paper in support of FOSS that includes quotes from the NASA mission statement about providing for the widest and appropriate dissemination of information. Some recent progress at NASA shows the legal office saying that there are no barriers to releasing software as open source from NASA. The next step is to work with the "Software Release Authority" within NASA to develop and OSS process.